Caibuningtai: A building made of cotton
Yang Meng, Li Yimei

We've all seen buildings made of brick and mortar, but I'm here in Dayinbao Village, Handan City, Hebei Province to see a building made of cotton fabric, which is hard to imagine.

After two hours' drive, I'm standing in front of an incredible colorful drum tower, and this is a "Caibuningtai" – a type of folk art that uses various colored cotton fabric to decorate structures.

Here I met master Jiao Jiangshan, a provincial-level intangible cultural heritage inheritor of Caibuningtai. Master Jiao is here to fix any broken parts, and invited me to join the villagers in learning to make some of the decorations myself.

Before I start, master Jiao told me the story behind it. "Caibuningtai originated in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties (about 1600-221 B.C.), and is unique to the culture of our village."

"Whenever the country is celebrating a big festival, some venerable villagers get together to discuss how to make the structure," Jiao added.

The cloth to make a Caibuningtai is donated by families in the village. People are willing to do it and some will get upset if their contribution is not used.

To make Caibuningtai, the cloth is not cut but folded to the desired size, and after the event, the cloth will be sent back to each donor.

Master Jiao told me that the hardest part is to make Huacao – different patterns of decorations: "Huacao are very hard to make, not only skills are needed but also artistic ideas."

Dragon made of cotton decorated Caibuningtai. /CGTN Photo

Dragon made of cotton decorated Caibuningtai. /CGTN Photo

The patterns to be used in the gaps between frames have to be vivid, lively and majestic.

"This is the back of the dragon we are making now, and the color of the two dragons needs to be different," master Jiao showed me.

Older generations guard the traditional craft, while the next generation carries it on with added creativity, making the art of the Caibuningtai even more exquisite. We can now go up to the second floor thanks to the improvements by changing the wooden structure to steel.

The tower carries the wishes of an entire village as the young and old gather to take family photos, and pray for the upcoming year.

Reporter: Li Yimei

Scriptwriters: Yang Meng

Editor: Yang Meng

Cover image designer:  Li Xiaojie

Executive producers: Zhang Xiaohe, Ai Yan

Producer: Si Nan

Supervisor: Pang Xinhua